• Film

Groundhog Day – 30th Anniversary Story

On February 12, 1993, a small romcom movie titled Groundhog Day was released by Columbia Pictures – and we’ve been re-living that day over and over again for 30 years every February 2 as the official Groundhog Day.

The film was directed, produced and co-written by comic genius, Harold Ramis, who died in 2014 at age 69 and also starred in, wrote and/or directed other classic comedies including: National Lampoon Animal House (1978), Meatballs (1979), Caddyshack (1980), Stripes (1981) and the groundbreaking blockbuster franchise, Ghostbusters (1984).

Considered a modest hit at the time of its release, grossing $70.9 million ($143 million today), the comedy stars Bill Murray as Phil Connors, a narcissistic, self-centered weatherman who finds himself snowbound in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania with his TV producer, Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell), after covering the local Groundhog Day celebrations he cynically describes in one memorable scene as, “a large squirrel predicting the weather.” Phil wakes up the next morning to find himself in a time loop, forced to repeat that same day until he gets it right.

The influence of the original film cannot be overstated, inspiring an entire genre of time loop films, including: 50 First Dates (2004); About Time (2013); Edge of Tomorrow aka Live. Die. Repeat (2014); Before I Fall (2017) and, more recently, the Golden Globe-nominated comedy, Palm Springs (2020), starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti.


At the time of release, the film only won a BAFTA for original screenplay for Ramis and co-writer Danny Rubin, but it has since become a classic, was recently re-released on Blu-Ray and became a Tony-nominated 2017 Broadway musical also penned by Rubin. Most importantly, you know a film is special when it enters the English lexicon, frequently used to describe an event or a day reluctantly being relived. Not to mention, it’s also made famous one of the most unlikely rodents, the groundhog (also known as a woodchuck or a large ground squirrel).

Actress Andie MacDowell recently told the Today Show, “For me, Groundhog Day was a perfect movie. It makes you realize how gorgeous life is and how to be a good person.”


Ramis revealed in a 2011 YouTube interview that he’d actually  offered the role to both Tom Hanks and Michael Keaton because he was initially afraid that a comedian type would “fall into their schtick.” Both turned it down and he eventually cast his long-time Second City comedy troupe friend from Chicago, who had already collaborated with him on Caddyshack and Ghostbusters.

MacDowell told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview to celebrate the 30th anniversary milestone that she credits Murray for delivering lines in ways that were “always fresh.”  She added, “He’s in touch with that dark side. He really used it to play this character, and he pulled it out in so many ways.” Others credit a big part of the film’s success to MacDowell’s own decision to play it straight and let Murray get the laughs. “I wasn’t looking to make people laugh,” she added. “I was always responding to him as, ‘this is earnest and believable, and this is who I am.’ My humor was playing it straight, and I don’t regret doing it that way.”

Although the film was based on the real Groundhog Day festival – held every February 2 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania – the shooting location was Woodstock, Illinois, a small town just outside Chicago. For the past three decades, that town with a population of 25,000 has hosted their own Groundhog Day festival that has become a mecca for movie lovers from around the world and an occasional wedding destination too.

There, local stores sell movie souvenirs including their own groundhog mascot, Woodstock Willy, as a stuffed toy or puppet and ironically both Woodstock Willy and the original groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, have just shared the same prediction with their shadow – six more weeks of winter this year – making it a safe bet that everyone will be back over and over to celebrate Groundhog Day again.